Tuesday, January 30, 2024

The Magic is out there. Jan. 21st-26th

 As much as we love St. George Island, we had to leave. Vowing to one day return again. We had a commitment to keep. So we packed up and headed along the gulf coast to our next magical destination. The drive along highway 98 was beautiful. Tall long leaf pine forests. Palm trees here and there. The sun reflecting off of the gulf coast waters. A great drive until you get to I-75.

What is it with Florida drivers? They are so angry and aggressive. Everywhere we go I am getting saluted with the one finger salute. (You know what finger I am talking about). 

"I am sorry that I cannot drive 90 in a 70mph zone!"

"Pass me for cripes sake!"

 I know when the bird is about to fly because they will tailgate me for a few miles and then zoom around me. "It's an interstate butthole!"

"There are three lanes! Is that really necessary?!" 

But all of that is behind us now as we get to Disney World. The most magical place on earth.

One of the perks of being in the military is that you get discounted park tickets. Plus we are also Disney reward members. So this week at Disney was theoretically free! We stayed at the Ft. Wilderness Campground. We love it there. Free transportation to wherever you want to go in Disney. That means, nobody flips you off.

Our first night there we hopped on the bus to Disney Springs for a little shopping and dinner. We got our first taste of large crowds. I asked Lisa, "Doesn't anybody keep their kids in school anymore?" She said that I was sounding like a grumpy old person. Keep calm. We made a vow that we were not going to be on our phones and the reason why is that wherever you look, people are plastered to their phones and not enjoying the surroundings. So many times we have been here and my only view of the parks was through the view finder of the camera. But not this time.

Our first full day was at the Magic Kingdom. In all honesty I was quite worried about being here. My health has not been the best lately and I did not want to be on the national news as the grumpy old guy that dies at the Magic Kingdom. Luckily I did not die there but I feel like I could have any day. More about that later.

We enjoyed seeing all that Disney has to offer. The rides, the scenery, the food. We loved riding the old familiar rides. Checking out some new ones and a little sad at the ones that are gone. Disney is continually changing all of the time.
Lots of people milling about. Some rides had short waits, 30 minutes or less. Some rides had much longer waits, 60 minutes or more. So after a long day,we got our fill of the Magic Kingdom.
We left before the fireworks and got back to our camper very tired. This was only day one. Those that have never been to Disney don't know what I am talking about but those who know, know. There should be an exercise program developed just for the people going to Disney. It should include walking all day. Standing in one place for what seems like hours. Just mainly being on your feet for an entire day. Many parents do it by wearing 20 pound backpacks and holding small children. We have been there and done that before.

Day two. We went to Disney's Hollywood Studios. This park is always changing the most it seems. Again lots of people. Some of the most popular rides like Rockin Rollercoaster and Tower of Terror where closed. I said to Lisa "A certain percentage of their rides are closed, they should give us that percentage in a discount off of our tickets". She chuckled and told me I was sounding like a grumpy old guy again. LOL?

We rode the rides with short waits and skipped the ones with longer waits. In past visits to Disney, they always offered what they called "Fast passes". That's where you could schedule a time to ride the most popular rides, thus skipping the waits. Now they call it the "Lightning pass." It does the same thing but now you have to pay extra to use that. So as we sit in line watching these other happy idiots skip lines as we wait, a small amount of anger starts to well up inside. I said to Lisa, "Disney should get rid of the lightning pass's and make everybody wait in line like the rest of us. That would make it fair." Grumpy old guy again. I'm starting to sense a theme. It's our own fault though. Disney saw an opportunity to make more money and they took it, because so many of these idiots said that they would gladly pay even more money to Disney than they already are.

They opened a new area at Hollywood Studios themed after Star Wars. Very well done. You would think that you are on a Star Wars planet of some kind. Except for the people everywhere. It was a very popular area.

Lisa kept thinking that we have been here before. In fact she swore on it. So she was looking back at photos. I on the other hand felt like we had not been here. Finally after much deliberation we figured it out. It was Disneyland where they had a Star Wars area. Duh. We were again tired and exhausted so we went to the camper for "Happy Hour". The local turkeys were eye balling the cats as we sat outside.

"Watch out! Here comes the grumpy old guy again!" Many years ago I said that I would not pay 6 dollars for a beer at Disney. And that holds true even more so today. Now the beers are $9.50-$10.00 a beer depending on what park you are at. Those are Jim and Barb prices. Again Disney saw an opportunity and ran with it because apparently there are a lot of people that will. If you want to buy some beer at the gift shop at your hotel, $19.50 for a six pack. Knowing all of this from before, we stocked up on alcohol before we got there. Put that in your pipe Disney and smoke it. Ha!

Day three. Disney's Animal Kingdom. Same story here. Lots of long lines for the most popular rides. We went to the "It's tough to be a Bug" show in the Tree of Life. It was so funny listening to the screaming kids that were so terrified by the show. That was the best part. There is a place in the Animal Kingdom named after me. If you go there maybe you can find it.

We got through the park in a few hours and then headed back to the camper for another "Happy Hour".

Day four. Disney Epcot.

Lots of changes going on again here also. We enjoyed walking around. Did a few rides. We walked around the World Showcase and got some good food from Japan, Morocco and England. We walked back around to Mexico for a Fiesta Margarita. ($15.50). After hours of fun we went home again for another "Happy Hour". Tomorrow we leave for more fun and frolic.

4 parks in 4 days. We were beat. We kept getting worn out after just a few hours. We asked ourselves how we could have done it from park opening to park closing every day. We would go around each park 2 to 3 times. Now we can only make it once and we are done. We were younger and in better shape for one thing but how can we both feel so decrepit? 

On to our next destination. It was great getting on the road again and being flipped off by the very first driver. Not kidding about that. In hindsight, that should have been a sign for how the day was going to go.

Until the next episode.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Winterpaloozafestathon, January 16th-21st

 I know what you are thinking. Where are the Sasquatches you mentioned in the last "nail biting " episode of the "on the edge of the seat" post you promised us. There are parts of Florida that are full of trees and forests and not very populated. That's where we are. Torreya State Park on the panhandle of Florida. Did you know that the elevation here is a whopping 240 feet above sea level. We have been at sea level for so long that being at this altitude is giving us nose bleeds.

Back to Sasquatch's. I am very sorry but we will not find any Sasquatch's here in Florida. We did not know that. So back to "The Google" we went and discovered something even better. In the southeastern part of the United States they have what they call "Skunk Apes". Now we have something to look for. In fact I have heard of the term "Skunk Ape" before. I just thought it was the pet name for Jethro that Bambi would call him.

Our view out our back window. Nothing but woods as far as you can see. Very remote and very rugged.  Torreya state park is named after the Torreya tree. This area is the only place this species is found.
It is the rarest of Conniferous trees. What does it look like you ask?
Majestic for sure.

Behind this tree sits the Gregory house. It was moved up onto this bluff to preserve it and keep it from flooding. It was down on the shores of the Apalachicola River.

It was moved by the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) board by board and then re-assembled on this site high above the river.

Well that is it for sight seeing here in this area. Lisa said to me, "What are we going to do for the next five days here?" 
"Five days !" I said. "There's not even any decent TV reception here."

As luck would have it, Lisa did some calling and booked us into a park that we have been hoping to get back to for years. St. George Island state park. 
The park is on the end of the island and the beaches are 8 miles long. It really is a beautiful place to be.
We walked for hours looking for shells, watching the birds and just enjoying the solitude of an endless beach with so very few people. The sea shells are everywhere.
During one shelling expedition I found a horseshoe crab. I put it back in the water to set it free. I also found two shells of the crabs. So I am bringing them home to try and save them.
These creatures are living dinosaurs. They have not changed in millions of years. Very cool. Everyday we went out for shells. Lisa was happy.
Lisa smiling.
A very cool sunrise this morning. 32 degrees and windy.

Our last day at St George Island was going to be cold and windy. Perfect day for a drive. So we took a drive to the St. Joseph Peninsula where there is another state park with camping and more beaches. The campground looked like it was brand new. The beaches were long and empty this time of year.
St. Joseph's beach.

Our time on St. George island has come to an end. Now we are moving onto the most magical place on earth. 

We are so excited we peed our pants!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Winterpaloozafestathon, January 9th to January 16th.

 "I think that if we are going to find Sasquatch's in Florida, I think it will be here". A quote from Tango Allejandro said on 1/16/2024 at 8:55 pm eastern time. But wait. Where is here? That is something I will divulge later, after we have moved on to keep the paparazzi confused. Wherever, here is at the moment, it is 21 degrees when we woke up this particular morning. In the news they are closing schools, setting up warming shelters and warning the populace of the impending temperature drop below 32. As born and raised Minnesotans, we just laugh and shake our heads.

In fact I was listening to one news report and they were discussing options on how to insulate your outdoor water faucet on your house just in case you were not able to get those insulated cups built for that. One option was to just use a styro-foam cup and place it over it. That might work if it fits. LOL. The next option was to place a diaper over it. A new one I hope. LOL again. Like everyone has a diaper in their house. I should stand on the corner with a box of Pampers and sell faucet covers for $20 bucks. I would be rich.

(Gladys said I could sell Pampers and depends. I'm not selling my depends to anyone. That's just crazy talk.)

Back to the blog topic. We left Waveland a day later than we were supposed to because of a terrible cold front that had moved through. Bringing inches of rain, cooler temps and high winds. Our next stop was not far away. It was in Mobile Alabama at Meaher State Park. Nice park on the Alabama Bay.

Sunset at Maeher State Park. That string of lights is I-10. Photo by Gladys.

Off in the distance you can see I-10 crossing the bay. Did you know that sound travels over water. It does.  So that is all you hear for 24 hours a day. We have been here before so we knew that. We sight see'd while we were there.

We went to "The Original Oyster House" for dinner one night. Not to be confused with "The Carbon Copy Oyster House" down the road. I was wondering if that cold front had produced a "Sharknado" because there were sharks on the roof. One of my biggest fears about being on the coast is being in the middle of a Sharknado. I've seen all 6 Sharknado movies (something I'm not proud of) and I am well aware of how dangerous it can be with flying sharks falling from the skies.

Did you know that Mardi Gras actually started in Mobile, Alabama? It did in 1703 when at the time Mobile was the capital of Louisiana (think about that for a minute). I looked it up on "The Google". So we went and found a King cake. 

They look good and we have never in our wildest dreams ever had one before. Jim told us that at first you have to play a ring toss game with it. Jim is so weird. Our cake came with a little baby in it.

Not knowing the significance of that, we had to go back to "The Google" and find out. "The Google" says that the baby is hidden inside of the cake and whoever gets it is "King" or "Queen" for the day. This is turning into a real educational trip. The cake was okay. If you were to ask us for our opinion, (which no one ever does), we would tell you it was just a fancy cinnamon roll with sprinkles. That's just us, you should find out for yourselves.

Our next stop on this whirlwind tour of "Dorks on Parade" was going to be Gulf Shores State Park in Alabama. We are still trying to find those warm temps that will put a smile on my baby's face. The key word is "still". Here at Gulf Shores we found some people we know of who are more secretive than us. Can you believe it? They are so secretive that they actually move their Super Secret Location every 2-3 years just so that no one can sneak up on them. But we found them. 

I agreed to change their names for the blog to keep their identities secret. They are Ford Ditchmower and Svetlana Roadkillpickerupper. We went out to lunch with them one day. The picture I have is a fake but this is a perfect example of how they eat.
I was like really? Do you need to eat each others foods out of your mouths. I was hoping a roll would come flying out of the darkness and bounce off their foreheads and knock them out. We visited a couple more times while we were in the area. 

We were talking to Ford and Svetlana about where we were going next. Ford's eyes lit up like a child's at Christmas. Rumblings could be heard from his stomach. All of a sudden he started to convulse and Lisa and I started to get worried. Svetlana said "Don't worry, this happens all of the time." All of a sudden he blurts out a single word. "BUC-EE'S!!!!!!"

Buc-ee's is a travel stop on the interstate in some parts of the country. If you get the chance you have to stop. Ford began to describe the sandwiches found inside. The way he described the food was as if he was talking about a long lost lover. Now we have to stop. We stopped at one a long time ago and we don't quite remember it the way he described it. So we put it on the "to do list".

We were in Gulf Shores for a few days. So you know what that means. Beach time! Gladys shell hunted. I treasure hunted with no success. So with my casino winnings and my treasures from Waveland, I am at 11 cents. Well worth the trip if you ask me.(Which I know, no one will ever ask me).
Still off the market ladies.
One day the waves were very angry.
Another day we just walked and walked. It really amazes me that people aren't out here enjoying the beach when the temps are in the mid fifties. Like us "Dorks on Parade".
Nearly empty beaches.
Gladys with a sack full of shells.

Gladys had her bag of shells in hand. She was staking out territories and battling other women when they got too close to her shells. Have you ever seen documentaries about Penguins and their nests. If so, it was kind of like that.
She found this one day and we weren't even sure of what it was. So we left it. Later on she found a Seashell collecting guide hand book and discovered that it is actually a shell called a Stiff Pen Shell. More education. Now we wish we would have taken it.

That is it for Gulf Shores Alabama. Thanks to Ford and Svetlana for taking time out of their busy schedules to visit with us. Until our paths cross again.

We did stop at Buc-ees on our way to our next destination. It was amazing. The sandwiches were just like the way Ford and Svetlana said they were. I ended up getting two. One for lunch that day and one for lunch the next day. The first one I got was a chopped Brisket sandwich.
Chopped brisket with Beaver tots.

I love brisket as my physique is living proof of that. Pilled high right in front of you. It was like OMG! The other sandwich was even bigger than that one. It was a three meat sandwich. It was piled high with smoked turkey, brisket and smoked sausage. If you don't get the meat sweats from that you are probably already dead. Another side you could eat if you wanted to was called Beaver chips. (Insert your own beaver joke here. Then PM me with it.)

"Gladys, just roll me to our next destination!"

As far as my sasquatch comment, that will have to wait for the next blog because we are currently still here.

Did you notice the new name change for the title of the blog. It's more inclusive now and sustainable. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Winterpalooza, December 28th-January 8th 2023

SSSSSSHHHHHHHHH..............We left the SSUVFL and quietly made our way south to warmer weather. (We left in the fog so no one would see us leave.)

Although this may have been the winter to stay north because when we left December 28th, it was 32 degrees and no snow. I did a quick check on The Weather Channel and it looks mild temps up there until January 10th. Usually it would be 30 below zero now and it would stay that way until July fourth. That's an embellishment but it sure feels like that some winters.

Like I said, we hit the road south. It took 3 days of travel and over 800 miles to finally reach a temperature that was out of the 30's. Our first stop was in Clear Lake, Iowa at a state park. We stop there out of necessity because for a camp ground so far north it is open year round. All you get is electric, because they are no dummies, they shut the water off. For $12.00 a night , it works.

Next stop was in Perrysville, Missouri. Lisa found an open RV resort there that used to be a KOA. Again. open year round. Full hook-ups for $22.00 a night. Temps were still in the thirties here so it is nice having electric to run electric heaters. Day temps now were going to warm up to the 50's so it was safe to de-winterize the camper now.

Our stop on day three was an Army Corp. of Engineer park called the North Abutment on Lake Granada in Mississippi. $24.00 for full hook-ups. It has been awhile since we stayed at one of these parks and I have to say that they rank near the top for "Niceness". 

Our site, #9. Picnic tables, grills and all paved. I don't like paying taxes but if our tax dollars go to these parks, I'm for it. 
Our view. Army Corp. parks are always built near dams or reservoirs. Way in the distance you can see the water. It would normally be closer but what I read about this lake is they drain it down so that the spring run off has a place to go. Otherwise the water would be at the edge of those trees.

At the end of the road turn left. If you go straight you will be in the Gulf of Mexico.

Finally on day four we arrived at our first destination. Waveland, MS. We have been here many times. We just really like it here. The beaches are huge and empty. Our camp ground is Buccaneer State Park. 

For a state park it is getting expensive from when we first stopped here. Something we will have to take into consideration for the future. I know Jim will choke on his beer when I tell you the price so don't be standing in front of him when he reads this. $65 a night for the holiday weekends $55 regular weekends and for a regular week day it is $45. If you want beach sites, shell out $85 a night. Like I said, this is a state park. It is getting too expensive for us now. We are here a week though and will make the best of it. 

Our first full day here, Jan. 1st, we went to the beach naturally. Lisa walked on the beach for hours while I did some treasure hunting.
Sorry ladies. I am taken.

I ended up with a rusty nail, a tent spike and $.06 in cold hard cash. The clouds moved in later so we drove down the coast to Biloxi. Later on we ate dinner at our favorite beach bar, Shaggy's. We both had shrimp platters that were amazing.

The water was so calm.

The next couple of days weren't very nice. So we decided to make the short drive to New Orleans. One day we drove to the Chalmette Battlefield.

This is where the last battle took place during the war of 1812. Also known as the Battle of New Orleans. The American forces were outnumbered by the British but they were dug in and fortified. The British marched over an open field and were slaughtered by the Americans. 2000 British casualties versus 20 American. It was a major defeat for the British, thus ending the war. The battle lasted a brief couple of hours.

So we learned some history and we got some great cannon shots.

Navel Battery. You can tell by the cannon.

Lisa playing "I bet you can't shoot me!"

There was a military cemetery next door so we went to check it out.

Another day we drove back into New Orleans to go to the World War II National Museum . Now the literature says that that takes all day to do. They were right. It is enormous. There are 5 different buildings to check out and it can get crowded sometimes. Well worth the stop. There is also a 4D movie that is extra but it is a must also.


What more could you ask for. There was also a section about the liberation of the concentration camps. It was very moving. They had interviewed survivors and also GI's who were the first to go into those camps. It was a very moving experience to see. I was telling Lisa that the sad part is that there are very few WW II soldiers left along with the Holocoust survivors and if it wasn't for places like this, the history will be forgotten. I only think of that because of my father passing away at 97 last year. He was a WW II vet and now he is gone.

One afternoon we went to the local casino. I had 17 dollars burning a hole in my pocket and I wanted to strike it rich. So we go in and pick out 2 penny machines side by side. Me being the big gambler, immediately put in a fiver. Lisa asks for money so out of the kindness of my heart I give her a dollar. These machines are confusing to us. You don't just bet one penny at a time. No. My bets were $.40 cents a pop. Blew through five bucks very quickly. I look over at Lisa and she is just punching buttons not knowing what she is doing and her machine starts to go crazy. Making all kinds of noises and lights flashing. Somehow she won just over $40 on one bet. She quickly cashed out and ran. I found the quarter slots and they just as quickly ate my last eleven dollars.
Lisa showing off her winnings with my money.
My winnings. You can't even get cash for that.
More beach days followed along with more shrimp feasts. But sadly our time in Waveland is at an end. On to our next wintery destination.

I can post this blog now because Lisa let it slip that she was enjoying the beach. I mean it was all over the Facebook so now everyone, (I mean the 5 readers that read this blog) will know that we are outside of the SSUVL. We will have to hide from the Paparazzi.